When looking to write about Black History Month, one cannot stop to look back on the achievements of Black lawyers and what they have accomplished and achieved and how much more we need to do as a profession in order to arrive at equality and acceptance of all. Usually, one also extends this search and enquiry into Black Women.
Her Honour Judge Linda Dobbs QC
Her Honour Judge Linda Dobbs QC was the first appointed black female High Court Judge in 2004. In fact she was the first black person who was appointed as a High Court Judge being a non-white ethnic minority to join the judiciary. She asserts that she found it absolutely terrifying” being the only ethnic minority judge on the bench for a further seven years, she felt “lonely… not one of the chaps…like you don’t fit in”.
When one looks at this achievement, you cannot avoid being somewhat shocked when 2004 is in the lifetime of most, including myself, as a mere 17 years ago. Why did it take so long to make this recognition and appointment? Then when looking into this further, I came across Elizabeth Lane, who was the first female appointed High Court Judge in 1965, again in the lifetime of some reading this blog. A full 39 years – essentially a whole generation – passed between one pivotal appointment and the next. Why did the legal profession take nearly four decades to appoint the first minority judge?
Stephanie Boyce, President of the Law Society
It’s also important to consider the appointment of Stephanie Boyce, President of the Law Society who became the first black person, and first female black person to be appointed as President. Her appointment in March 2021 marks what is hopefully the sign of more progression in this historic and established profession. Stephanie now represents more than 200,000 solicitors in England and Wales. She herself has said: “This is a time of change for solicitors, for their organisations, and for the country. But while solicitors can and do play the role of the trusted adviser, we can also be a force for change…the door is open, and the trail is ready to be blazed.”
A profession that welcomes all, irrespective of background
As Lady Justice towers above our heads erected on the Old Bailey, one cannot forget her Scales, Sword and most importantly her Blindfold. Justice should be applied without regards to wealth, power, or race. Therefore, as a profession we should remember this when opening our doors and encouraging growth and expansion.
We need to do more to support colleagues and encourage the youth of today. We need to let them know that irrespective of their backgrounds, this is a profession that welcomes all and encourages growth and prosperity. We have to do more to open the doors and discover the talent that is still uncertain about their welcome and place in Law. We need to do more to grow our recruitment drive to encourage a diverse range of candidates. As Black History Month 2021 draws to a close, let’s all do our bit to ensure we commit fully to ensuring our profession has a positive, successful and diverse future.